The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) told AOPA on Sept. 10 that there is "an enormous seriousness to TFRs" and warned pilots not to violate any temporary flight restriction area. But at the same time, TSA is continuing a "Catch-22" that could lead to the prosecution of innocent pilots. The catch is this: They won't tell you exactly where and when the TFR is in force, but they can "violate" you if you happen to stumble through a "stealth" TFR. AOPA is continuing its fight to eliminate this Catch-22.
The issue is notam 1/3353, the infamous "blanket" sporting event(s) TFR prohibiting general aviation from flying within three nautical miles and below 3,000 feet agl of all large open-air gatherings. That notam effectively closes nontowered airports near stadiums during events. But the FAA notam system does not alert pilots to the locations or times of these events.
"For months AOPA has been insisting that the TSA eliminate or revise this notam because the wording is vague, confusing, and virtually unenforceable," said Andy Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of government and technical affairs. "Pilots cannot be reasonably expected to comply with a notam that is absolutely devoid of any information about the thousands of events presumably 'protected' by this 'blanket' restriction."
For example, there are more than 22 nontowered GA airports within 3 nm of Division 1A college football stadiums seating 50,000 or more people. And there are literally thousands of minor league stadiums, high school athletic fields, and fairgrounds within three miles of airports, and very few of them are marked on aeronautical charts.
"Even worse, TSA cannot define what constitutes a 'large open air gathering,'" said Cebula. "The notam must be made specific; it must permit aircraft to land and take off from nontowered airports using designated traffic patterns, and the government must tell pilots of the specific events they must avoid."